A hierarchically porous silver nanowire-bacterial cellulose composite fiber for detection of both pressure and proximity https://doi.org/10.1021/acsnano.0c06063

Fiber-based sensors are desirable to provide an immersive experience for users in the human–computer interface. We report a hierarchically porous silver nanowire-bacterial cellulose fiber that can be utilized for sensitive detection of both pressure and proximity of human fingers. The conductive fiber was synthesized via continuous wet-spinning at a speed of 20 m/min, with a diameter of 53 μm, the electrical conductivity of 1.3 × 104 S/cm, a tensile strength of 198 MPa, and elongation strain of 3.0% at break. The fibers were coaxially coated with a 10 μm thick poly(dimethylsiloxane) dielectric elastomer to form the fiber sensor element which is thinner than a human hair. Two of the sensor fibers were laid diagonally, and the capacitance changes between the conductive cores were measured in response to pressure and proximity. In the touch mode, a fiber-based sensor experienced monotonic capacitance increase in the pressure range from 0 to 460 kPa, and a linear response with a high sensitivity of 5.49 kPa–1 was obtained in the low-pressure regime (<0.5 kPa). In touchless mode, the sensor is highly sensitive to objects at a distance of up to 30 cm. Also, the fiber can be easily stitched into garments as comfortable and fashionable sensors to detect heartbeat and vocal pulses. A fiber sensor array is able to serve as a touchless piano to play music and accurately determine the proximity of an object. A 2 × 2 array was further shown for two- and three-dimensional location detection of remote objects.